We meet the main character of this 1999 drama, which builds to the outbreak of the Spanish civil war, on his first day of school, and the supportive relationship he develops with his teacher continues outside the classroom—in the boy’s home and in the fields, where the teacher takes his students to learn about the natural world. The elegant story could have leaped ahead in time at any juncture—like so many personal-historical narratives that sacrifice persuasive character development for a sense of scope—but the boy is played by Manuel Lozano throughout the movie, which is set firmly in 1936. Some delicately interwoven and unresolved subplots help make his rite of passage wholly, disturbingly compelling. Jose Luis Cuerda directed a screenplay by Rafael Azcona based on stories by Manuel Rivas; with Fernando Fernan Gomez. The Spanish title is La lengua de las mariposas. 97 min.